Self-Producing An Online Course During A Pandemic

My struggle writing, shooting and editing
an online course while in quarantine & why it was worth doing.

• By Rebecca Ahn •

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

This whole pandemic has been one long ride on the struggle bus to survival town, for everyone. And that’s certainly no different for content creators like us. 

As a video producer and creative business consultant in Los Angeles, I’ve been fighting to find paying work while simultaneously feeling the pressure to churn out even more content online. I’m guessing you know what I’m talking about. 

At the same time, and for years now, I’ve been seeing the increasing need for better women’s self-defense training. The classes currently available out there are designed, and usually also taught, by men. So they simply can’t speak to a woman’s experience from a woman’s perspective. They focus far too much on the “how to kick ass” part, and not enough on the “but then get away to safety” part which really is the ultimate goal of self-defense. And there are even fewer of these training options available online.

So I’ve long been envisioning a more comprehensive female-minded women’s self-defense online course.  But like we so often do, I procrastinated and put it on the back burner while I kept chugging away at the banality of my incumbent work. 

Then COVID happened. Within two months of the first lockdown, all of my consulting work had slowed to a halt. The money stopped coming in. And unemployment wasn’t covering enough of the difference. I needed to figure out something new. Meanwhile, two even bigger things started happening...

Everyone began staying home and doing everything online. And the tumultuous political climate began making the world more and more unpredictable and dangerous. 

Then it hit me. NOW is the time to create the women’s self-defense online course I’ve been secretly plotting. Now is the time that women most need and will be most amenable to learn these vital survival skills in an online format. 

Of course, that’s always easier said than done. My little idea turned into a 21-video, 8-module beast of a course with over 138 minutes of total video content.  Longer than a feature film. And I had no one to help me.

Oh I’d always intended to have help. I’ve been in this industry long enough to have many amazing production contacts who would have been more than happy to offer their expertise. I’d always intended to hire several of them to make sure my videos were the very highest quality possible. But of course, thanks to the pandemic, that whole plan went out the window. I could no longer use the studio or any of the crew (or their equipment) that I’d had in mind. 

So I did what I could instead. I set up a makeshift “set” in my parent's house (where I was stuck for the first half of the pandemic) and tried to work my shoot schedule around them. I bought a cheap shotgun mic on Amazon. I plugged that into my Pixel phone, mounted it on my shitty tripod, did my own wardrobe and makeup (don’t ya love how much time this step alone can take?), got myself pepped up, and started filming. 

It all took 2 weeks to script and prep, and 12 days to shoot (which included a lot of reshoots). Now I’m 4 months into post- production and counting, and the videos are finally about 95% done. But at the height of that, my days often consisted of 8-12 hours of nearly non-stop editing in Adobe Premiere, a 2TB external hard drive, and my little MacBook Pro that could. 

Besides all the neck and back pain that caused, not to mention endless stress headaches, the biggest pain in my as(s)pirations has been my sound. And I should have known better. I always told clients to make sure they record quality sound on set. I made sure every project I produced had the very best location and sound crew. Yet, when it came time to do it all by myself, I let that aspect slide. Now I’m paying the price with crappy sound that no amount of pro sound effects can fix (though it can hopefully make it slightly less distracting). 

"So however you do it, self-love and self-care are an absolutely essential part of this process."

Now I’m not telling you all this to discourage you from creating your own online courses and content. Far from it. I think you absolutely should. There has never been a better time for online content and online education. The latter especially is booming like crazy right now. So I heartily encourage you to jump on board this train. 

Just learn from my mistakes and don’t shortchange yourself because you’re doing it alone. Take your time and treat it like it’s any other professional shoot with all the amenities. Invest in decent equipment (or at least don’t be afraid to ask to borrow someone else’s). 

DON’T skimp on sound. 

Get a solid location sound setup and record from a separate position that’s nice and close to your face. Shoot in a room that won’t drastically change in natural light throughout the day. Ideally shoot in a studio or at least a room you can close off and somewhat soundproof to minimize interruptions. And make sure you review ALL of your footage ALL the way through - video AND audio - at the end of each day, so you can easily reshoot while you still have your setup in place. 

Then take your time WHILE you shoot. There are so many times I should have paused to check the focus or lighting or sound, but
I was too afraid I’d lose the momentum of my on-camera energy. As a result, I rushed through the filming too fast and had to do several days of reshoots for entire videos where the focus kept shifting too much or the lighting had gone out of whack. So be patient with yourself and take as long as you need to put on each hat and tighten up each aspect on set as you go. 

This is especially important right now, with the pandemic trying all of our patience and emotional resilience. I had a very hard time keeping up my energy throughout this project. Not only to be on camera but also to just keep working on the damn thing. I had to keep reminding myself that I was doing this project FOR ME, to give myself a means to support myself and rise out of this dark time and financial struggle. I also took a lot of breaks. And slept a lot. 

"So however you do it, self-love and self-care are an absolutely essential part of this process."

If you need to extend your timeline, or take a crafty break, or press pause and have a good cry, then do it. Without shaming yourself. And if you mess up some of it, like I sure did, don’t be discouraged. 

All things considered, I’m not sorry I did it. And I’m still proud of what I created. Because now IS the time. Both for online education AND for women’s self-defense training. Both are essential and very needed right now to navigate this crazy world we are living in. 

So if you as a creator are considering making your own online educational content right now, don’t wait any longer. You can do it too. Learn from my mistakes and go make the impact you envision. For others and for yourself. Now is the time. 

If you as a woman want to learn how to defend yourself, now is the time for that too. Check out my Tough Cookie Self Defense program at and let me help you stay safer and stronger in this increasingly crazy and unpredictable world.

This pandemic may try to break us, but you see what doesn’t kill you makes you a stronger woman in film (and in life). We gonna come back swinging. 

"Across each occupational adventure, I'm forever a storyteller who believes in the power of stories to evince the change we envision."

– Rebecca Ahn

Rebecca is a professional chameleon -- producer, manager, editor, writer, creator, entrepreneur, advisor, strategist, stunt artist, self-defense specialist -- with a track record of building powerful people, projects, and companies that inspire, educate, empower, and protect across multiple industries including entertainment & events, tech, travel, women's health, and safety.